I wanted to create a little bit of a better thread, describing and laying out the function/benefit for our visual flow indicators.
By function: The function of the flow indicator is fairly simple. For a liquid application, the balls will all float the same typical level if the flow is consistent across different outlets. If there is variability in ball height, it can indicate a plug or excess flow (which can be caused by a few reasons).
By benefit: The benefit is also fairly simple as well. As any application of fertilizer (or chemicals/innoculants) with the seed, you don't have any feedback whether a run is plugged, getting too much, or too little flow. The flow indicator visually indicates if there is variation in the flow, so you can correct the issue. If left plugged, you'll end up having one (or many) rows that are getting less nutrients than others, which can cause headaches when it comes to staging and harvesting (as those rows' crop may be significantly lower). Aside from the functional benefit of having evenly growing crop, yield can be impacted as well.
Overall, if you are having plugged runs, it can cost more than just money. Time, effort, and lost yield potential.
What makes our visual flow indicators special?
Flexibility & Function:
We make two styles of flow indicators, a manifold style (for single feed in, multiple outlets out) and an isolated feed style (for single feed in, single feed out) to suite different styles of application.
Within those two styles, we offer a standard, low flow and ultra low flow (ultra only available in manifold) models as well, allowing better accuracy and monitoring of flow for different flow ranges.
From the different styles of columns, you can visually see the flow between 0.01-2.7 US GPM.
The columns also come as single units, so they can literally be stacked as you need. There are no pre-set sizes or shapes of manifolds, it can all be customized.
We use top-notch material for all of our flow indicators. It is called TPX (or pentamethylpentene), which is a clear polymer that is commonly used when chemical resistance is paramount. It is the same plastic used in laboratories and such, given its exceptional clarity and chemical compatibility and stability.
For reference, some farmers apply chemicals with some additives that would literally soften and melt other lesser plastics (e.g. vinyl, pvc, etc.), so we pride ourselves on using the best we can get.
That being said, as with any clear plastic, UV rays start degrading the outside of the columns, so it is best to cover them up when not in use. There are UV inhibitors that are blended and built into the plastic itself, but it can only do so much. As a point, if you are reading this and you might have had some older columns that started getting white on the outside of them, there are products like a 3M headlight scrub, that effectively buffs out the outer layer of the plastic, bringing better clarity for an extra life of the column. Keep in mind, this really only works the once.
If you've seen our catalog, we make a whole handful of different style/size fittings for inlets, end caps, and pretty much all you can hope for in fittings. This allows it to be set up as best as possible for any sort of setup.
From push-in tube fittings to hose barb, to end caps for pressures gauges, there are a large group of functional fittings to do whatever you'd like to your system.
We have recently added a few styles of O-ring seal check valves that give an excellent check valve option right at the column as well, making any servicing to lines, or changing metering orifices easy.
We also have a new style of molded ORS orifices that are seeming to be a nice improvement on stainless punched orifices, especially at lower volume applications. The orifices are larger, and snugly fit into any ORS outlet or fitting, allowing for more consistent rate across your application equipment.
The new molded orifices are color coded to flow rate as well, so they follow the same designations as spray tips. We also provide precision drilled orifice sizes for in between sizes and for options as well. The color also lets you see the rate/size, so if you missed switching an orifice, you'd be able to visually see the different color and fix it.
As an added bonus from other traditional manifolds, all O-ring seal (ORS) fittings can be rotated 360°, so it doesn't matter whether you need to adjust hose barb outlet angles to stop any interference, just simply rotate it around. (Versus threaded fittings which only have a little bit of play before they are too loose or too tight)
The main question I get asked when someone is setting up a flow indicator system is "What size column do I want, which ball do I use, and which orifice would I want?"
For that, I put together a pretty decent calculator sheet, that gets you to plug in your rate, speed, spacing/etc, and it will give you a line across a data sheet (like the picture below) that will show:
1. Whether certain balls would work with your application, and which columns would be used.
-The balls are represented by the colored column, with the min/max of that ball's operating being a relative gauge of where the ball would suspend within the column.
2. Which metering orifices are compatible with the flow you are putting out. (Based on pressure)
The sheet can be downloaded HERE.